Slam Dunk Contest a Family Affair for JaVale and Pamela McGee
Los Angeles, CA - JaVale McGee came home one day with a slight headache. His mother asked him what happened.
"He said, 'Mom, I hit my head on the backboard trying to do a dunk,'" Pamela McGee recalled. "I said, 'hm, okay.'"
The younger McGee finished runner-up in the 2011 NBA Slam Dunk Contest at the Staples Center on Saturday evening. The 23-year-old was bested by Los Angeles Clippers rookie Blake Griffin, who wowed the crowd by dunking over a car for his final throwdown.
For McGee's final dunk of the opening round, he brought his mother onto the floor to help. Pamela McGee, a former WNBA star, carried a specially colored basketball down to the court and handed it to her son. The younger McGee then took that ball, along with two others, and made the first three-ball dunk in contest history.
"We definitely were trying to get the crowd into it," JaVale McGee said. "We knew it was going to be text voting so to have women voting, we figured it would be good to get those text votes."
Unfortunately for the McGees, the gesture couldn't quite stack up to vaulting over a Kia -- Griffin received 68 percent of final vote.
But this moment was more than just a marketing effort: the McGees also have a unique, unprecedented connection to the professional basketball world. They are the first family to have a mother play in the WNBA and son in the NBA. Pamela McGee was the second overall selection in the 1997 WNBA Draft, then spent two seasons in the league with the Los Angeles Sparks and Sacramento Monarchs. McGee also has a long career overseas, as well as a gold medal from the 1984 Olympic Games.
"This kid has been on a basketball court since he was nine months old," Pamela McGee said. "He traveled with me when I played overseas. He always had a seat on the side of the bench that was always in my contract. I'm just happy for him."
Pamela was the second pick in the 1997 Draft and played for the Monarchs and Sparks Ned Dishman/NBAE/Getty Images
McGee received a 50 the max total on his first dunk by slamming two balls into a pair of baskets that were side-by-side. He said he practiced the dunk on Thursday and completed it on his first attempt.
"He came up himself with the two baskets," Pamela McGee said. "I didn't see any of his dunks before."
His second slam the one with his mother's hand-delivered ball also featured the help of teammate John Wall. The first-overall selection tossed one of the balls up while McGee threw the other two balls down. That earned McGee a 49 for a first-round total of 99.
"He's always been in the background for me, so I tried to stay in the background but he said, "no Mom, I really want you to be part of this,'" she said. "I loved it."
For McGee's first dunk of the finals, he drove from the left key and ducked under the backboard in midair while reaching back for the slam. The final one, which came after Griffin's car dunk, was an off-the-backboard to himself.
"I'm so proud of my son. He did an outstanding job," Pamela McGee said. "In my book, he won the Dunk Contest."
McGee had practiced two dunks which he didn't break out in Saturday's contest. One was to grab a cash bill from the net with his teeth while slamming home the ball. The other was to dunk on a 12-foot basket. The first one was too similar to what opponent Serge Ibaka did he used a stuffed animal instead of a bill and the second he didn't feel comfortable doing.
The University of Nevada product credited dunk coach Chris Webber with helping him hone his ideas.
"It was definitely helpful in having his reaction to some of my dunks and really knowing what to do," he said. "He really gave me some good ideas. We collaborated well."
Several of the contestants said it was difficult to come up with unique dunks that haven't been done before. That's why props are becoming more a part of the contest than ever before.
"All of us definitely came prepared and with props," McGee said. "We all came for entertainment because we definitely didn't want to be another disappointment for the Slam Dunk contest."
This year's contest was certainly anything but disappointing. That is, except for McGee going home without a trophy.